The first time I heard of canoeing down Taylor Slough was in the
early 1980's while re-locating Still Creek. Helping us in
Still Creek was Chuck who mentioned his son canoed down
Taylor Slough in the 1970's. At the time, I had been canoeing
the Cape Sable area and Wilderness Waterway trips and just started
inland explorations so I did not have enough freshwater canoeing
experience to ask intelligent questions. He said they entered up
at the levee but I don't recall any talk about their route.
This just became another item filed away in memory.
Many canoe expeditions later, in November 2008, I was exploring
around Paurotis Pond looking for passage out with the possiblity
of working my way down to Pearl Bay. Sonny was fishing and
I wasn't succeeding at breaking out of the pond so we engaged
in an old-coot conversation about deep canoeing in the
Everglades. I just completed a trip down Shark River Slough
in October so somewhere in the who-has-done-what conversation
Taylor Slough was mentioned. He said slough king Tony
started at the levee, stayed in the slough, fought his way
through mangroves into the headwaters of Taylor River and
came out in Florida Bay. I contacted Tony and he added that
he came out the Taylor River into Madeira Bay and crossed
Florida Bay to end at Key Largo - heroics befitting of a
slough king title. With water levels still high this year, I
planned my own Taylor Slough trip.
I have done my share of out-of-the-canoe-more-than-in-the-canoe
type canoeing so I now prefer to look for routes instead of
making routes. I am very comfortable spending nights in the
rough, but day trips, when it can be a day trip, are very
easy and enjoyable. One more thing; Madeira Bay is now closed
to the public. Studying the aerial photos (oh, for modern
tools - Terraserver and GPS isn't just an aid it's a
revolution to backcountry canoeing) an airboat trail can be seen
going all the way down the slough and arcing west. It doesn't show
well as it goes west, but Sonny assured me it connected to
Nine Mile Pond. The plan was to start at the airboat ramp at
Pine Island, canoe down Taylor Slough and exit at Nine Mile Pond.
The only area I previously had been in was Nine Mile Pond so my
concern was the canoeable condition of the airboat trail and the
unknown portion going southwest then northwest into Nine Mile Pond.
Circumstances delayed our entry on 16 November 2008. Dan
and I started paddling my 15-foot aluminum canoe at 08:15, it
had been light since 06:30. This wasn't good since we wanted to
have every bit of sunlight when starting a 21 mile canoe trip,
did not know how much we would be pushing instead of paddling and
might lose a guiding route during the late part of the day. Since
it was a day trip we carried no overnight supplies; past halfway and
we would be committed. Navigation at night would be impossible.
As Dan said, "This is what makes it an adventure."
At the north end of the slough the water was plentiful but not deep,
halfway through our stroke the paddle would hit bottom and we would
push. We paddled through a cypress hammock which was very pleasant
with the cool north breeze and made it to the first water station
(21'10"N & 36'24"W) on the route at 09:03. We got to
The Intersection (19'19"N & 38'33"W) at 10:10, there's a really
big science project just to the east of this intersection. There
are a couple of intersections on the route but this is
The Intersection because it's easy to go the wrong way. Two-thirds
of this trip is on a southwest heading so it's not intuitive to
make a hard turn to the northwest especially when it's very clear
paddling ahead to the south and southwest. The route through thick
tall grass and a long line of large growth bordering an old
north-south canal is to head northwest for about a quarter mile then
another hard turn back to southwest. This little jog is not easily
discernible, although it shows well on the aerial photos - trust your
mapping. We didn't realize our mistake until we were forced east by
the growth, wasting about 40 minutes after backtracking. Once
finding the slot we were back on route but a little more nervous
about our time.
A variation worth considering is making this a two day trip by
spending the night at the Ernest Coe backcountry campsite. The
campsite is only about a half mile northwest of The Intersection
and requires only a regular backcountry permit available at the
Ernest Coe Visitor Center. Who's going to be the first to do this?
After crossing the old canal (19'22.5"N & 38'46.5"W) we ran into
shallower water and many thick grass areas requiring serious pushing.
We stopped for lunch at 12:50 next to a small mangrove hammock
at 17'19"N & 39'59"W. This difficult portion of the trip continued
down to an old overgrown easterly trail at about 16'12"N & 40'57"W
but hard as it was to push through this stretch we did it by staying
in the canoe.
This is the slough for seeking the real Everglades experience,
it may be the most secluded area in the park. There is a giant
antenna tower southwest of Miami that violates the vista for
almost the entire way down Shark River Slough. At night it must
radiate an endless reminder of human intrusion. Within a day's
travel the sound scape will be shattered by a half dozen or so
airplanes. This is not the case in Taylor Slough. The only human
structures are the occasional science projects and we only heard
the muted roar of the wind rustling the grass.
By the time we got to the next intersection (14'52"N & 41'19"W)
the grass was much thinner and shorter, the water was deeper and
even though the mangroves formed a formidable wall blocking travel
toward Florida Bay they were less dense on the inside. Much more
open than the previous part of the trip. This is the area
where an exploration could be launched to go due west straight
over to Nine Mile Pond effectively cutting the south corner.
Since this was our first time, we stayed on the obvious route
which continued southwest. The trail dips to it's southerly
point at Craigheads Pond (13'45"N & 42'14"W) where there is
another water station and big science project. This area
was still very open and with plenty of water,
we could canoe freely almost anywhere, however,
the location of the sun in the sky was still a concern. It was
15:12, we were 7 miles from Nine Mile Pond and the airboat trail
disappeared. Fortunately the openness allowed us stay on a heading
with just minor dodging of small pods of mangroves. The sun was
getting low on the horizon when we spotted marker 65A
(15'22"N & 45'58"W) of the Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. It was
17:00 and we had about an hour of daylight to paddle the south side
of the loop. Hastily picking our way through the twisting but well
marked trail, the sky darkened just as we canoed across the pond
landing at the parking lot at 18:00. Tired but proud of our
accomplishment we discussed a future trip to find a route cutting
that lower corner off during the ride home.